IT’S SCARY, ‘cause you’re trapped again.
You checked into The Dead End Hotel and your room is just four white walls and a rusty old bed. All around you a message is smeared again and again in big green letters.
HEY YOU! YOU’RE BORING!
This is what you’re thinking anyway, that you’ve lost all ability to entertain.
You’re not alone.
This lodge is free for all frightened writers and there are no vacancies. Maybe because room service is also no-charge, serving all you-can-eat Doubt and Fear with a cherry on top. Forget about checking out. The beds are so soft you never leave to type another word.
Under those warm dark covers you scream, “Why try anymore? Nobody reads my words anyway!”
Wake Up! Wake Up! This Is Your Worst Nightmare!
And panting now, with sweat glistening your brow, you think, ‘Besides my mom, there must be someone else who cares about me! My career may not be that rosy place I hoped for, but it’s not over yet. Is it?
It can’t be! I gotta back to WRITING. Gotta get back in the game. Gotta get another shot!
OBSCURITY is NOT an option! Please…make it NOT be an option!
Fellow writers, sometimes it takes staring down our demons to push past them. Sometimes it even takes analysis to spew our fears, needs and imagined losses.
They’re mine too. Let’s talk it out together. I’ll be YOU.
The First Session
“Ahhh… Mr. Podolsky?”
“I’d like to take some notes now.”
“But you’ll have to let go of my hand.”
Hand? I look down to my lap. I’m squeezing fingers. They’re not mine. And they look a bit blue. I release them.
My therapist’s eyes uncross, and gulping air, the man sputters, “You were…saying?”
“Yeah… Well, I’m a writer. And I’m that guy in my dreams too. Except, as my dream self, I wake up to scary green words. And then I really wake up…like BORING for real! How can I write when I’m boring?!
“My stuff is CRAP! My blog’s crap! Maybe my books are crap too and nobody told–”
I glance down again, I’m squeezing again. I let him go.
My doc moves his chair three feet from me, rubbing life back into his wrist. I don’t think he likes me.
“Call me Irv.”
“Irv…” He clears his throat. “All writers have lulls. Self-doubt is natural and needed for reevaluation.”
“Yeah? Well my blog readers don’t know that! And they’re taking off!”
“Why are you agonizing over this? Wasn’t writing supposed to be a fun hobby?”
“Hobby? Once I published and started my blog, Hobbyville imploded! This author thing is now about getting that damn platform going. And I need readers for that! Lots and lots of readers. And when the few I have go away and green words tell me I’m a major yawn, my ideas suck! Or I forgot how to write! Or I’ve neglected all that marketing shit. Especially that marketing shit!
“You have feelings of failure?”
“Every failure brings you closer to your win. You’ll improve.”
You don’t get it! How many how-to-write books can I read? It’s my IDEAS, Doc! Nobody cares about’em anymore! I’m down to five blog hits a month!”
“But aren’t there millions of sites?”
“But I was popular once! When I started out people read me. And now… Now… Now I feel DEVALUED! I AM devalued. HOW DO I GET THAT BACK?!”
“Get-back-value…” my shrink mouths, jotting down those words. His eyes move to the clock. “We’ll pick this up the next session.”
Session Number Two
“I want to matter,” I explain, staring at my therapist. Today he’s sitting eight feet away…wearing work gloves. I pretend he isn’t, continuing with, “I wanna feel significant. I want to make a difference. Entrepreneurs do that.”
“Not all” replies my doc. “But some are successful. Some become famous. Some become heroes. It’s natural to want to emulate them.”
“I just wanna be special.”
“Why is that so important?”
“Doesn’t everybody want to be special?”
“Why do YOU? Because you are already.”
My stare moves to the floor. I’m thinking. I’m thinking I wish I had his hand back.
“Irv…” whispers my shrink. My eyes rise to meet his. “Could it be you want to be loved?”
Dumb question. “Who doesn’t?” I answer.
“Why do you want to be loved…more than you are?”
Okay, now this I have to think about. Who loves me, besides the people who are supposed to? Oh… He didn’t ask who, he asked why I want love. Why do I want more love? Think, Irv… Love, love, love…
A thought bubbles up. “I want to be loved…‘cause… ‘Cause I guess I don’t want to be alone. The more people who love me, who watch my back, the safer I feel.”
“Safe about what?”
“You know, the usual stuff – going broke, getting hit by a bus, not getting my calls returned. That’s human, isn’t it?”
“Of course it is,” my very smart psychologist affirms. “But everyone seeks validation in different ways. And sometimes, the way we want it isn’t at all the way it comes to us.”
“So…” he continues, “everyone makes a difference whether they realize it or not.”
“Some people travel through life avoiding all risk. They play life safe. Still, people love them.”
“Some people accept those risks, push past the crowds and make wonderful things happen.”
“Some people reluctantly take on confrontations in private and end up with notoriety anyway.”
“Some people go to war to find purpose and a band of brothers. And they do.”
“Some people take up causes and help others because the returned gratitude makes them feel good about themselves.”
“And some people are truly selfless, fearless, and fight the fight because it’s the right thing to do. Achieving fame is not the goal but those achievers still get it and use it to do more good things.”
“Yes, yes!” I exclaim, jumping out of my chair. “I want to be George Clooney! And sometimes I even come close. But I don’t get famous for it.”
“Is that what you want?” my doctor asks, “Multiple affirmations that show you’re respected, that it’s okay to feel good about yourself?”
“Well yeah. It would be nice to know I create some value.”
“What makes you think you don’t?”
“I TOLD YOU last session! People aren’t buying my books anymore! Only eight eyeballs are reading my blog! Whatever value I had shriveled!”
“Why have you wrapped everything around your writing?”
“Because, damn it! I’m a WRITER!”
“No, Irv. You’re a person first, who happens to write. And you do many things beyond writing that make people admire you.”
“Those things aren’t important.”
“Because lots of guys take out the garbage and have a job. And sure, it’s appreciated. But it’s not special.”
My shrink writes, ‘Not special…’ then raises his eyes back to mine. I keep talking.
“The writing, though, THAT’S hard to do. A compliment about that means something.”
“You feel you earned it.”
“Yeah. It means I’m not boring.”
“Do your friends and family think you’re boring?”
“No. But they don’t count.”
“You don’t trust their honesty?”
“Hey, c’mon, it’s family. I’m an okay guy. I load the dishwasher and call my cousins for their birthdays. For that they help me out. That’s what friends and family do.”
“So their opinion of your work isn’t a blind test.”
“But you’re thinking, true value comes from the admiration of strangers…of fans…of unknown readers who will buy your books and read your blog. You want social proof.”
“You want Oprah.”
“Of course I want Oprah!” Again I spring from my chair. “Every writer wants Oprah! And now her show’s gone!”
“You want Oprah’s love?”
“YES, DAMN IT! I want Oprah-Love!!! I need Oprah-Love!”
“You’re standing on my feet!”
“Oh… Geezz! Sorry!” I step back.
“And let go of my hand!”
I do. But his glove comes with me.
“Please, Mr. Podolsky. Stay over there.”
I back up to my seat. And now that I’ve settled, sort of, my therapist resumes our talk, rubbing his feet. “Irv…listen carefully.”
“You’re associating superficial fame with your personal value. But think about it, Irving.
Fame is actually a concept about you in each fan’s mind. You symbolize a goal yet to be achieved. When they look at you, they see a fantasy version of themselves, a benchmark, a role model for their own world. They don’t see you. They see themselves in your place. Is that the kind of love you want?”
He looks at this watch. “We’ll pick this up next session.”
“WAIT! What do I do?!
“Irv, my four o’clock is here.”
“He’s my writing partner. He can wait. Doc, tell me what to do!”
“You want to know what to do? Ask yourself, ‘Do I still enjoy putting words on paper? Is it still fun?’ If it is, keep writing. If it isn’t, stop writing. Because if you only write for love, for admiration, for validation, you will never get enough.”
“That’s fine. I’ll take half.”
My wife started leaving comments on Huffington Post articles. I recently asked her why she did that. She said that she wanted her voice to be heard. I asked why, since many times she adds her comment to a list of a hundred others. She said that with all the hate and lying going around, it’s important that people protest against that.
This is the epitome my wife.
Her public writing has nothing to do with personal gain.
As a voice in many, she writes to make the world a better place.